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New York Times, Saturday, May 24, 2014

Author: Peter Wentz
Editor: Will Shortz
Peter Wentz
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299/27/20071/6/20180
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1.83005
Puzzle of the Week

This puzzle:

Rows: 15, Columns: 15 Words: 66, Blocks: 36 Missing: {QZ} This is puzzle # 16 for Mr. Wentz. Jeff Chen's Puzzle of the Week pick. NYT links: Across Lite PDF

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Peter Wentz notes: Much of the time, a themeless might start with a single seed entry that the rest of the puzzle is built around. With this one, my ... more
Peter Wentz notes: Much of the time, a themeless might start with a single seed entry that the rest of the puzzle is built around. With this one, my goal was to have each of the central three answers be "seed entry" quality, all while still allowing solid entries to bridge into the corner quadrants. This meant a few compromises in the crossings, but overall I was pleased with the number of fun answers in this relatively low word count (for me!) grid.
Jeff Chen notes: Ah, I love seeing Peter Wentz's name on a crossword byline. He has a great sense for what's colorful in a grid — a difficult ... more
Jeff Chen notes: Ah, I love seeing Peter Wentz's name on a crossword byline. He has a great sense for what's colorful in a grid — a difficult concept for many constructors to develop. Almost all of his themeless puzzles manage to work in a snazzy set of entries, and some of them are as close to my perfect ideal as I've seen. This one from 2012 is on my personal list of all-time favorites.

I really appreciate how Peter isn't okay with resting on his laurels, but instead pushes his envelope. The best part of XWord Info for me is corresponding with all the constructors, and I absolutely love when someone comments about striving for growth. Even better is when that impulse is spurred on by the desire to give the solver a better quality product. So seeing Peter's notes about trying for four quality "seed" entries did it for me.

This grid has its minor flaws, the SNO / FRA / ESL kind of stuff (TEC doesn't bug me at all), but look at the goodness that it allows for. The center in itself is fantastic, NOODLED AROUND being such a fun, colloquial phrase. Thirteen letter entries are often very difficult to incorporate in both themed and themeless puzzles, so it's neat to get this treat. Having it sandwiched by THE WHO SELL OUT and JIMMY SWAGGART was both fun and a funny juxtaposition. JIMMY SWAGGART NOODLED AROUND... I need say no more.

Grids with 13-13-13 (or similar) middle arrangements can be a little dry, as that can stop up many puzzles with the heavy constraints. Peter deploys his black squares wisely though, isolating the SW and NE corners so they can be filled with strong stuff, same goes for the NW and SE. Segmenting one's grid to work with subsections often makes filling much easier.

Oh yeah — there was THE WOMB. I didn't care at all for that entry, which opens the door for just about any THE ___ entry, i.e. THE BOOK, THE PEAR, THE DOOR. I'm a big fan of entries that can stand by themselves like THE STAND (Stephen King's book), but I'd prefer to show THE WOMB THE DOOR.

Finally, two clues I loved. [Round stopper, for short] had me thinking about bathtub plugs, the ace of clubs (defensive "stoppers" are very important in contract bridge no trump contracts), even food items that stop you up. Ahem. I've said too much. Great misdirection from the real answer... a boxing round. And [Merrie Melodies sheepdog] may seem like a pedestrian clue to many , but for me it brought back fond memories of Sam and Ralph, the sheepdog and coyote, clocking in and out of their "day jobs."

Very nice work today. G'night, SAM. G'night, Ralph.

JimH notes: Mr. Wentz is, by far, the scrabbliest NYT constructor.
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© 2014, The New York TimesNo. 0524 ( 23,573 )
Across Down
1. Talk, talk, talk : RAMBLEON
9. Give stories : LIETO
14. Basis of comparison : ANALOGUE
15. National tree of India : BANYAN
16. "Good going!" : NICEWORK
17. Words before many a commercial : UPNEXT
18. Singer who wrote : ISAAC
19. Battle of Albert setting, 1914 : SOMME
21. United hub, briefly : SFO
22. Traditional Christmas gift for a child : NEWTOY
24. Accent reduction may be a subj. in it : ESL
25. Italian title : FRA
26. Unwelcome closet discovery : MOTHS
29. Their sizes are measured in cups : BRAS
30. 1967 album that included "I Can See for Miles" : THEWHOSELLOUT
34. Fiddled : NOODLEDAROUND
35. "A Study in the Word" host : JIMMYSWAGGART
36. Make a comeback? : ECHO
37. Old cinema : ODEON
38. Round stopper, for short : TKO
39. Merrie Melodies sheepdog : SAM
41. Schoolmarmish sound : TSKTSK
46. ___ Brum (car accessory) : SNO
47. Having depth : CUBIC
50. Recipient of much 2010s humanitarian aid : HAITI
51. Giant in test prep : KAPLAN
53. Succeeded : GOTAHEAD
55. "Er ... uh ..." : IMEANT
56. Boss : OVERLORD
57. Largest minority in Croatia : SERBS
58. "Sounds about right" : RECKONSO
1. Took downtown : RANIN
2. Jägermeister ingredient : ANISE
3. Talking pet : MACAW
4. Complain : BLEAT
5. Pie-in-the-face scenes, say : LOWCOMEDY
6. Sacred thing, to Ayn Rand : EGO
7. Sharing word : OURS
8. Indie rocker Case : NEKO
9. Flap of fashion : LAPEL
10. Pub : INN
11. Command to pay attention : EYESFRONT
12. It may include laundering : TAXFRAUD
13. Down, in a diner : ONTOAST
15. They're often seeking change : BUMS
20. Text, e.g. : MESSAGE
23. Loud complaints : YOWLS
27. Life starts in it : THEWOMB
28. Certain beach phony : HODAD
29. Obscure : BLUR
30. "The King's Speech" director : TOMHOOPER
31. Horace man? : HOMO
32. Field fungus : ERGOT
33. Subprime mortgagee, to detractors : LOANSHARK
34. Handle : NICKNAME
35. Kawasaki products : JETSKIS
39. Doctor's orders : SCANS
40. Dahlia in Wodehouse novels, e.g. : AUNT
42. Surrealist known for self-portraits : KAHLO
43. Like many ribbons : TIEON
44. All-___ : STARS
45. Bud : KIDDO
48. One who has a hunch : IGOR
49. Mooring spot : COVE
52. Media ___ : LAB
54. Classic Bogart role, in slang : TEC

Answer summary: 8 unique to this puzzle, 2 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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